How To Prioritize Your To-Do Lists For Maximum Effectiveness Today

How many of you end up with long to do lists that just end up becoming a laundry list of STDs (shit-to-do’s)?


Source: Sidekick

Used to happen to me all the time.

Having a laundry list of to do’s leads to a few problems:

1. Decision paralysis

When you’re looking at a restaurant menu and have too many choices, what happens?

You become unsure of what to order because of all the great choices.

Should I get the chicken pot pie? Or maybe the prime rib? Or the veal?


It’s not a HUGE setback when you’re deciding what to eat (although it can be annoying), but when it comes to work, you have to be decisive on what to work on.

2. A false sense of accomplishment

Did you end up clearing up the majority of your to-do list? Great!

But it’s not so great when you realize that you only cleared out the small things that don’t really move the needle in your day.

Brushing your teeth, showering, eating lunch, buying groceries are all great, but those are table stakes.

What are the top 3 (or better yet, top 1) things you can do to get you closer to your long-term goals today?

What are the needle movers?

3. Procrastination

When you have a laundry list of things to do, human tendency is to gravitate towards the easy stuff. People tend to avoid the more difficult tasks because well… they’re difficult.

But it’s the hard stuff that matters most.

“There are lots of things you can do to grow a business (or your career), but usually there’s one or two things you can do that are hard but effective. For me, that’s writing useful articles that help change people’s lives. For my 14-year-old daughter’s cupcake business, that’s spending time perfecting her recipes until they’re to-die-for. Those things take hard work, and so we avoid them. We do all the smaller things and think we’re helping our businesses. But actually, we’d be better spending our time on the hard, effective, important things.” – Leo Babauta of Zen Habits

So what’s the solution to this? Prioritize your to-do lists.

How do prioritize your to-do lists

1. Eisenhower quadrant

The first thing to do is to become familiar with the Eisenhower framework.

Eisenhower’s strategy for taking action and organizing your tasks is simple. Using the decision matrix below, you will separate your actions based on four possibilities.

  • Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  • Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  • Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  • Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

The great thing about this matrix is that it can be used for broad productivity plans (“How should I spend my time each week?”) and for smaller, daily plans (“What should I do today?”).

Here’s a diagram from HubSpot’s Brian Balfour:


Source: HubSpot

2. Add labels to your to-do list

Adding labels will help you prioritize your tasks in a simple way. Here’s an example:

^ = process
# = client
$ = revenue generator
1/2/3/4 = quadrants the task is in

If you see multiple tags and a ‘1’ or ‘2’ label, you probably want to knock that out first.

3. Be consistent

Like any new habit, practice makes perfect. Suck at creating a new habit? Check out Tiny Habits.

4. Rinse and repeat

Repeat this over and over and soon enough, you’ll see the benefits from prioritizing your to-do list. It’s super easy to see what you should be working on now. Ideally, you should be living in Quadrant 1 and Quadrant 2. If both are in the same quadrant, look for the one that has more tags.


Rehearse for webinar tomorrow ^/$/1


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The average attention span in 2015 is 8.25 seconds (which is actually less than that of a goldfish!). This means it’s tough to focus with all the noise.

But if you build foolproof processes around you, you’ll be just fine at doing the important things that matter to you.

What are some other ways that you prioritize effectively?

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